Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez found herself at the center of another right-wing Twitter conspiracy Friday morning, after a Republican strategist falsely claimed that she had employed her longtime partner Riley Roberts as a paid congressional staffer. The New York congresswoman and her team corrected the record, saying this is not true.
Conservative podcast host Luke Thompson first made the claims. Taking a screenshot from an unknown source, he tweeted: "While you were having a nice Valentine's Day, @AOC decided to put her boyfriend on staff - drawing a salary on the taxpayer's dime. Nice to see her adapting to the swamp so quickly." (The tweet was temporarily taken down because the screenshot, which includes Roberts' email and phone number, was said to be in violation of Twitter's terms of service.)
Ocasio-Cortez was quick to debunk the claim, clarifying that Roberts obtained an official House email address in order to get access to her calendar. "Actually this cal designation is a permission so he can have access to my Google Cal. Congressional spouses get Gcal access all the time. Next time check your facts before you tweet nonsense," she tweeted.
Actually this cal designation is a permission so he can have access to my Google Cal. Congressional spouses get Gcal access all the time.— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) February 15, 2019
Next time check your facts before you tweet nonsense.
But Thompson, not one to take the L, questioned whether Roberts is being paid, doing any staff or volunteer work, and why he would have access to Ocasio-Cortez's calendar since he's not her "spouse." (The couple began dating in college and have lived together for years.) Ocasio-Cortez' chief of staff Saikat Chakrabarti, further clarified: "He's not paid. We have no volunteers in the office. He's not doing any government work. He can see her calendar just like spouses/partners/family members in other congressional office."
The right has obsessed over Ocasio-Cortez ever since she upended the Democratic establishment last summer. Conspiracy theories have emerged over her socioeconomic status (her clothes, childhood home, and even her public high school did not look poor enough, so she must have been lying about her working class background) and there has been extensive criticism of her dancing, how she's allegedly "not successful in real life," and her failure to smile.
Just a hint of the possibility that Ocasio-Cortez would do something as corrupt as hiring her partner as a congressional staffer and draw his salary from taxpayers' dime seems like a godsend to those hellbent in discrediting her. The problem is, this type of swamp-like tactics are something that Ocasio-Cortez has consistently railed against.
Additionally, there wouldn't be a point to lying about the reasons why Roberts has an official email address. Quarterly disbursement statements, which are public and released in the spring, would clearly show if he was on payroll. Maybe it's time conservatives engage in intellectually honest critiques of Ocasio-Cortez's ideas and put their conspiracy theories to bed.
This story was originally published at 11:03 a.m. It has since been updated.